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YouTube faces paying artists billions after EU copyright vote

Posted on: Wednesday 4th of July 2018

youTube_grace_chattoYouTube lost a crucial vote on 20th June in Brussels over new copyright laws that will force it to pay billions of dollars in fees for users watching music videos. The plans still have to be agreed with representatives from the EU’s 28 governments before becoming law, and opponents of the law pledged to fight on when the legislation comes before all MEPs for a final vote. “I will challenge this outcome and request a vote in the European parliament next month,” said the Green MEP Julia Reda, one of several objectors who feel the copyright law that would render EU internet access points a ‘tool for control’.

For years the music industry has argued that YouTube exploits the lack of legal protection around videos (uploaded by ordinary users – UGC – User Generated Content) being viewed on its service, to pay minimal amounts to artists and labels when they are viewed. The music industry, including the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), Impala (Independent Music Companies Association) and BPI (British Phonographic Industry), have lobbied that this “value gap” between the true worth of the music videos and what YouTube decides to pay needs to be bridged with legislation. The safe harbour means protected platforms can’t be held financially liable for copyright infringing content uploaded to their services by users, providing they have a system in place via which rights owners can have that content removed.

“The importance of today’s vote cannot be overstated; this proposal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new balance in the online world,” said Helen Smith, the executive chair of the European music body Impala, which represents labels behind acts including Adele, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. “It is about copyright and making sure creators and their partners get a fair share of the value they create.”

Unfortunately, a small majority of MEPs blocked the controversial copyright bill from moving on to the next phase of negotiations in a dramatic vote on Thursday 5 July, after weeks of intense lobbying from tech companies, publishers, musicians and internet rights campaigners. 318 MEPs voted to discard the JURI Committee’s decision and 278 elected to keep the legislation. Hitting out at the claims made by those who oppose the directive, and especially articles eleven and thirteen, GESAC President Anders Lassen said: “This vote was never about censorship or freedom of speech. It was only about updating the copyright rules to the 21st Century and ensuring that creators get a fair remuneration when their works are used in the digital space”.

Now, the entire complement of  751 MEPs will get involved and spend the summer drafting new amendments to the file. They will vote again in another plenary session in September. It’s a major blow to the Commission, which pledged to complete agreements on all outstanding technology bills by the end of this year. Negotiations on the contentious copyright overhaul can start in September at the earliest.



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